Bloomington valedictorian keeps cool under pressure (Video)
June 4, 2013 at 1:04 a.m.
Underneath his Astros baseball cap and sport sunglasses, Nathaniel Sanchez, has a cool head on his shoulders.
The 17-year-old high school athlete was put at ease a few weeks ago when he learned he would be giving his class valedictorian speech Friday night.
"It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders," Nathaniel said.
Although he's been a top-ranking student since his freshman year, Nathaniel said he's glad to know its official now.
The Bloomington High School senior said he applied to one school, his dream school, Texas A&M University, where he'll be starting his freshman year as a mechanical engineering major.
"I didn't want to go anywhere else," Nathaniel said. "I've wanted to go there since second grade."
His older sister, who attended A&M, also had a hand in fanning Nathaniel's lifelong desire to become an Aggie, he said.
"I guess all of her encouragement rubbed off," Nathaniel said.
Sitting close to Nathaniel inside his parents' living room was his mother, Mary Ann Rivera, a self-employed interpreter.
"My mom is probably the biggest motivator I have," Nathaniel said. "She always made sure I was on top of my schoolwork."
That meant no cellphone privileges for the high school student until he finished his assignments.
Once he had to deal with not having his phone for a week, Nathaniel said.
It was a challenging rule for the teenager who worked to get good grades while being a part of the high school's football and baseball teams.
"It was hard juggling sports, maintaining a social life and school," Nathaniel said. "My parents taught me to be successful in everything I do."
And this year, with the looming haze of senioritis, the temptation to steer away from the books was even greater.
"For him coming from a small school, the opportunity to do better academically is greater than anywhere else," his mother said.
Last summer before starting his senior year of high school, Nathaniel said he learned the real value of hard work.
The teen worked at an areal grain company from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. lifting grain into trucks.
"It's not easy making money," Nathaniel said. "I learned that I have to work for everything I have at that job."
The third-generation, bilingual Mexican-American said that although his love for music lies primarily within the country music genre, he enjoys listening to Tejano music as well - citing Intocable and Siggno as some of his favorites. Jason Aldean is his country favorite.
On the weekends, Nathaniel said, he likes to take his white truck out for a drive through town, play baseball with his friends and fish.
Although he considered transferring to Victoria school district in the past, Nathaniel said he's grateful for the small-town population of his high school.
"I'm really going to miss my friends more than anything," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to keep our friendships alive throughout college."